The Science of Scent

ESSAY from Issue #4

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How do you create a fragrance that smells like Paris in the 1920s or evokes the smell of a scene in a photograph? The expert blending of scents is a fine art form underpinned by a very specific science. We speak to master perfumers to find out more about this balancing act and to discuss the changing tastes in the world of perfume. Last summer, cosmetics and fragrance company Elizabeth Arden posted a 28.4% plunge in sales in the fourth quarter, blaming it on the falling sales of its celebrity fragrances. A few months later, its competitor Estée Lauder acquired two independent high-end fragrance labels in the space of a few weeks. Both acquisitions, Le Labo, the darling of the New York cool kid scene, and Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, a collection of scents designed by master perfumers, hint at the widely-accepted shift in the industry—mass is out, niche is in.